15 Ways to Protect Yourself From Identity Theft

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Identity theft tops the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) list of consumer complaints – and with good reason. An identity hack can steal your tax refund, alter your medical records, prevent you from securing a loan or getting a job – and even take out a loan in your toddler’s name.

It sucks.

What sucks even more is being the sucker. Here are fifteen ways to prevent theft, fraud and suckery from happening to you.

  1. Make a list of all of your credit cards (including account numbers and emergency phone numbers of each issuer). Secure this information in a safe place – as in, anywhere but your wallet!
  2. When you use your credit card in a restaurant or store, don’t let it leave your sight.
  3. Keep your driver’s license in your wallet, but leave your birth certificate and Social Security card out!
  4. Install a locked mailbox to prevent mail theft. And if credit card or bank statements don’t arrive on time, call your lender and bank.
  5. Take care where you leave your wallet or purse when you’re out and about. Leaving it on the table when you go to the loo is a no-no.
  6. Use drive-through ATMs whenever possible. Otherwise, utilize them inside stores or other well-lit, well-trafficked areas.
  7. This should go without saying, but don't write your PIN on your ATM card or store it in your wallet. Memorize it!
  8. Put preapproved credit cards and loan applications through the shredder before you trash them.
  9. Check your bank statements as soon as you receive them.
  10. Order a copy of your credit report every twelve months, and keep an eye out for signs of fraudulent activity.
  11. If your state uses your Social Security number on your driver’s license, request a randomly assigned one instead.
  12. Never give out your Social Security number, bank or credit card information on the phone, unless you initiated the call.
  13. If you’re concerned about a potential scam, call the cops.
  14. If your wallet or personal identification is stolen, don't hesitate. Notify the police, your credit card providers, your bank, and the three major credit reporting bureaus.
  15. If your financial privacy has been compromised in any way, ask each credit bureau to place a fraud alert on your credit report.